Consumers who hold variable-rate debt will face higher monthly payments as rates adjust upward. As a result, millions of Americans will end up dishing out more each month to pay their credit card bills, home-equity loans and other accounts that have a floating rate. It will also cost more to finance big-ticket items, such as a home, car or boat, as rates tick up. Higher rates are also likely to change the calculus for many homeowners when it comes to refinancing mortgages.
Consumers will feel the sting of higher rates in more subtle ways, too. Rising rates push up the cost of virtually everything we purchase, from utilities to insurance policies, as companies pass along higher capital costs by raising their prices, experts said.
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"You have to look at interest rates as the cost of money," said A. Raymond Benton, a certified financial planner with Lincoln Financial Advisors. "Higher rates have a depressing impact on the economy because the cost of money goes up, and that flows through the whole economy, very much like a tax."
Higher prices, advisors say, ought to prompt Americans to either make a household budget for the first time or to take a hard look at existing budgets to figure out how to save an adequate amount. As the U.S. economy improved in recent years, the country's savings rate has generally trended downward.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, the national personal savings rate — which is savings as a percentage of disposable income — was a mere 4.3 percent in January, while personal consumption ticked up slightly.